Visit Jacksonville Makes Move for Multicultural Meetings

In a move to capture a bigger portion of multicultural meeting revenues and boost low-season blues, Visit Jacksonville has formed an advisory board to guide several new diversity initiatives aimed at the meetings market.

The board, to be chaired by Jacksonville city councilwoman Mia Jones, consists of nine political, industry, and business leaders within the community. TJ Jackson, multicultural accounts director for Visit Jacksonville, created the proposal to form the board and pulled charter members from interested partners that were already involved with Visit Jacksonville's marketing efforts, such as the local Asian American Alliance and the African American Chamber of Commerce.

The advisory board will guide Visit Jacksonville as it launches new marketing campaigns, exhibits at targeted trade shows, and develops new multicultural collateral materials.

Its goal for the first year is to increase visibility in culturally diverse markets and boost multicultural group bookings by 20 percent.
Currently, such groups number about 30 annually, representing more than 22,000 total room nights.

According to Visit Jacksonville statistics, these groups traditionally prefer low-season dates of July through December. The multicultural meetings market could prove to be a golden opportunity for the city and its hotel community, which is looking to boost group sales during this time period.

"It was really an instance in which preparedness met opportunity. The hotel community came to us looking for ways to boost business in its highest-need months of July through December. We were able to identify a segment of the market that preferred those dates," said Jackson, citing a 9,000-strong Elk Club conference and a 10,000-strong Hindu youth group that both used the city last July.

In creating the multicultural advisory board, Visit Jacksonville sourced best practices from several other bureaus and sought input from such organizations as the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners and the International Association of Hispanic Meeting Planners.

The board will focus specifically on how to offer incentives to make the city's low season even more attractive to multicultural groups but also to the group market in general.

Discounts on meeting space, hotel rooms, and other services are being considered. "The main focus will always be meetings and convention business," said Jackson. "The meetings business brings leisure business as visitors return."

Visit Florida, the state tourism office, is supporting the multicultural campaign through a $20,000 grant. The organization cites no additional outside funding to support the initiative.

Originally published January 28, 2008